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Low-risk prostate cancer doesn’t need hormones

Low-risk prostate cancer doesn’t need HT
Hormone therapy has become a go-to treatment for men with low-risk prostate cancer. The costs are high (risks to the liver and heart, to name a couple), but doctors will swear it’s worth it. Thankfully, a landmark study could change that line of thinking forever.

A diagnosis of prostate cancer usually means going into attack mode, no matter what. Whether it’s high-risk, low-risk, or somewhere in between, the mainstream barrels in, guns a-blazin’.

One of those guns is hormone therapy, which invites loss of sexual function and liver damage. A couple of months ago I told you about new research that shows hormone therapy for prostate cancer could raise your risk of serious heart problems (“Are you risking your heart with prostate cancer treatment?,” 9/30/09).

It was once held for more advanced cases. But, more and more, doctors are prescribing hormone therapy in earlier, lower-risk cancers.

Hopefully, a landmark study (the results of which were reported at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s annual meeting earlier this month) will start changing that.

Because it turns out that hormone therapy doesn’t do much at all for men with low-risk prostate cancer.

Men with low-risk prostate cancer who were put on radiation therapy alone had survival rates comparable to men who were on a combination of radiation and hormone therapies. (So there’s still the radiation therapy to deal with, but this is a start.)

Dr. Anthony Zietman, professor of radiation oncology at Harvard, was pretty blunt about it: “This study tells us that the majority of guys diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t need hormone therapy at all.”

He also said that the use of hormone therapy for low-risk patients was originally fueled by financial incentives. I’m not surprised. But I am angry—all those men, their health put at serious risk, for a few extra dollars.

Will the mainstream start seeing that the risks of hormone therapy aren’t worth it for anyone, not just low-risk patients? This study marks a start, but there’s a long way to go—the headline of one article about this study, after all, reads “Hormone Therapy Can Help Some With Prostate Cancer.” Hmmm…interesting point to focus on.

Like I said, though, it’s a start. Remember—research I told you about earlier this fall shows that “watchful waiting” can actually be the best way to deal with low-risk prostate tumors (“Mainstream approach to prostate cancer misguided,” 9/21/09).

With plenty of safe and natural options out there for even advanced cancers, there’s really no reason to risk your heart in fighting cancer. Try searching “prostate cancer” in our online archive at for some of those safe options.

“Landmark Study on Hormone Therapy in Low-Risk Prostate Cancer: Results Now In,” Medscape Today (
“Hormone Therapy Can Help Some With Prostate Cancer,” Medline Plus (